Has Indian Cricket Ever Had It So Good?
No 1 in Tests and No 1 in ODIs. Has Indian cricket ever had it so good? If the Test team has proved that it way ahead of the competition, the ODI squad has just squeaked past South Africa to the top slot. And to be candid is looking good to stay there for an elongated period.
Yes, there will always be the detractors who will say that the victories have been notched up against weak opposition (Sri Lanka) or in familiar home conditions (against Australia). But that would not be an accurate assessment. For one thing the Indian team for various reasons did not field some of their leading players.
Secondly the manner in which they registered the victories underscored the ruthlessness and augurs well for the future. A 5-0 win in Sri Lanka followed by a 4-1 margin against Australia is something not even the most optimistic Indian cricket fan would have envisaged. It must also not be forgotten that the victories were largely emphatic with plenty of runs, wickets and overs to spare.
As long term plans go the Indian team cannot be better placed. Indeed, long term planning is the first step towards achieving your goal and if India are to emerge victorious in the 2019 World Cup in England then that plan should be put into place now. And with the mega event just over a year and a half away it does appear that there is a lot of healthy competition for the final squad of 15. No one can take his place for granted and that is as happy a scenario as it can get.
There are able reserves to fill up any slot. There are talented youngsters waiting in the wings. Nothing emphasized this more than to see Axar Patel, Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav fill the spinners’ slots more than adequately in the absence of the ''rested’’ Ravi Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. And this kind of bench strength extends to the batting and pace bowling slots too.
Right now the Indian team has the ideal blend of cricketers required for a successful run in limited overs cricket. An explosive batting line-up, several bits and pieces players (so very important in the format), fairly high fielding standards (another very important aspect of the game) and the right kind of balance among pace and spin bowlers. And the most heartening aspect is that young talent is sprouting like never before and symbolizing this is the exciting Hardik Pandya whom the Indian captain has aptly hailed as ''a priceless asset.’’
The roles of Ravi Shastri and Virat Kohli cannot be overemphasized. The two are the key men as the run-up to the World Cup starts and from all accounts the coach and the captain are on the same wavelength as far as planning and strategy are concerned. Of course the selectors too have an important task. If the unexpected triumph in 1983 came about credit should also go the selectors for picking a side that was ideal for English conditions besides of course having a number of utility players who played such an important role in the victorious campaign. This time also the wicket and weather conditions in England should be kept in mind while picking the squad.
There is little doubt that the emphasis should be on youth particularly when there are so many talented youngsters around. Of late players like Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina for long regulars in the ODI squad have not been considered while several new players have been capped and that is the right approach.
The chairman of the selection committee MSK Prasad has even put MS Dhoni on notice saying that he is not an automatic selection anymore. ''If he is not delivering we will have to look at alternatives’’ he is quoted to have said. While this could be putting pressure on the 36-year-old former Indian captain it could also send out a signal that no one can take his presence for granted which is a good thing. Even Kohli has made it clear that no one is guaranteed of a place in the squad as there are multiple players vying for the limited spots in the playing eleven.
In the ultimate analysis the squad should be an ideal blend of youth and experience with the skill to succeed in English conditions. Kohli’s team has a number of experienced players who are well established while youth as I said are starting to make their presence felt in no uncertain terms. Whichever way one looks at it there is every indication that a well balanced team will be in place for the World Cup.